Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. is recalling 295,000 pounds of turkey and chicken after federal inspectors found listeria germs at its Wampler Foods plant in Pennsylvania, the Agriculture Department said Wednesday.
Although the recall follows at least 120 illnesses and 20 deaths caused by listeria in eight Northeast states since last summer, “there is no chance this listeria is associated with the outbreak,” said Steven Cohen, a USDA spokesman.
On Oct. 2, food inspectors were led to the Wampler plant in Franconia, Pa., after people sickened in the listeria outbreak had said they had eaten its products â€” including turkey pastrami, turkey ham and chicken breasts. Tests for listeria proved positive in food processed at the plant on Aug. 14 that was distributed nationwide to retail stores, restaurants and school cafeterias, Cohen said.
But the genetic strain of the listeria found at the plant is different from those of samples taken from people infected during the outbreak, Cohen said.
All the recalled products have the establishment code “P-1351” inside the USDA seal of inspection. The food had sell-by dates of no earlier than Oct. 7.
Pilgrim’s Pride spokesman Ray Atkinson declined comment.
The Agriculture Department, working with the Centers for Disease Control, is still investigating the cause of the multistate listeria outbreak. The CDC has linked 43 of the cases, accounting for seven deaths.
Garry L. McKee, administrator for USDA’s Foods Safety and Inspection Service, warned consumers to beware of the recalled products.
“Diners may also wish to ask if their meals contain the products,” McKee said.
Since the outbreak was first noticed, abnormally high numbers of cases have been detected in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland, with at least one related fatal case as far west as Michigan.
Between late July and mid-September, 25 people in Pennsylvania were infected, according to state health officials. Three people died â€” one in Delaware County, one in Westmoreland County and one in Philadelphia. The state’s normal rate of listeria infection is about 24 cases a year.
Listeria food poisoning can cause high fever, severe headaches, neck stiffness and nausea. It can be fatal to infants, the elderly and people with weak immune systems. Listeria kills about 500 people each year and sickens 2,500, the CDC said.
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